Travel Tip: Packing Only A Carry-On

Travel Tip: Packing Only A Carry-On

About a year ago Shay and I were getting ready for our 10 day trip to Berlin & Paris. That was our second big international trip, and the first time we traveled to two countries using only carry-on luggage. I learned a lot while planning and executing the trip. A lot of what we learned has since become a standard for how we do all of our traveling - both domestic and international. I've decided to share my knowledge in this two-part series titled "Travel Tips". In Part 1 I'll provide my guidelines for packing using only a carry-on, and in Part 2 I'll outline my method on how to set an itinerary. Below is Part 1, check back soon for Part 2!

When I told Shay that we were only taking carry-on luggage for our 10 day trip to Berlin & Paris, he looked at me like I had 3 heads. I really pushed this issue, because a couple of years ago we checked our bags on a flight to Barcelona. The airline lost my luggage on the front end of the trip, and lost Shay's luggage on the back end. I had to buy clothes at H&M to get me by for two days while the airline tracked down my bag. That experience alone was enough for me to convert to "carry-on only".

This concept was reaffirmed after I almost missed my connection flight on my way to meet Shay in Berlin. I literally had 20 minutes to switch planes. Thankfully, I was able to run (pushing and cursing at people in German) to catch my flight - WITH my luggage. If I had checked my bag, there's no way it would have followed me.

Over the last year I have perfected the carry-on only method, and I'm here to tell you how to accomplish this for your travels - big or small!

Pack a Mini Capsule Wardrobe

This blog outlines what a capsule wardrobe is. You can think of it as packing the basics where everything is relatively the same style and all in the same color pallet.

  • Make sure everything can be mix and matched. Think simple & avoid statement pieces.
  • Understand that a 10 day trip doesn’t mean 10 different tops. Plan on wearing things more than once.
  • DON'T go out and buy new clothes for a trip. I know it can be tempting, but realistically, you should be able to just pack a handful of your favorite staples pieces.

Lay Everything Out

Start doing this the week before your trip. It helps to see the big picture of what you’re bringing, what needs to be washed, and allows you to make changes to your pile throughout the week.

  • Each day, assess the pile and challenge yourself to take something away.
  • Only take what you NEED, don’t bring any “maybe” items. How many times have you gone on a trip and come back with perfectly clean clothes that you never wore? DON'T do this, just don't.
  • In my opinion there are several items that you can always leave behind. Like hair tools, for example… learn to embrace your natural hair style or perfect the top knot - save room for more important things.

Pack Smart

Don't carelessly pack your bag like you're going to the gym. This should be a thought-out process that you can perform in a snap.

  • Roll, don’t fold. It's easier to find items and move things around if they're rolled rather than stacked. It's also easier to fill in those nooks & crannies.
  • Wear your bulky items on the plane. Think boots, jacket, hat, scarf, etc. The more on your body while traveling will allow more room in your bag.
  • Avoid stuffing your luggage to the brim, try to leave room for purchases on your trip.

Use your Personal Item Wisely

You typically get 1 carry-on item and 1 personal item. Don't take a big personal item just so you can pack more things. The whole point of doing a carry-on only is to make your life easier.

  • Your personal item should be no bigger than a purse or a camera bag.
  • Carry all of your liquids (in a quart-size zip-lock) in your personal item. Since your liquids need to be scanned separately, it helps if they’re easily accessible.
  • The rest of your personal item should contain your "personal items" (get it?)… passport, money, book, headphones, chargers, snacks, etc.

Remember that you're going on vacation! Don't let your luggage drag you down (literally). When you come back, you'll reminisce about the places you went and the food you ate, not about that killer outfit, and certainly not about how the airline lost your luggage!

In case you're wondering what carry-on bag I use, it's the Tortuga Travel Backpack. There are a lot of great options out there for carry-on luggage. I personally like using a backpack rather than a roller suitcase. It's so much more convenient being hands-free when you need to make a run for it, or if you want to hold your coffee in one hand and croissant in the other.

I hope this helps you pack for your next adventure!

Travel Tip: 5 Steps For Building The Perfect Itinerary

Travel Tip: 5 Steps For Building The Perfect Itinerary

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore